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A Website and Weblog about Topics and Issues discussed in the book
Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution by Howard Rheingold

Smart Mobs & Cuba
April 3rd, 2014

According to an Associated Press piece early this morning titled US secretly created ‘Cuban Twitter’ to stir unrest, the US Government has quietly been prepping Cubans for “smart mobs” and possible political change:

Documents show the U.S. government planned to build a subscriber base through “non-controversial content”: news messages on soccer, music, and hurricane updates. Later when the network reached a critical mass of subscribers, perhaps hundreds of thousands, operators would introduce political content aimed at inspiring Cubans to organize “smart mobs” — mass gatherings called at a moment’s notice that might trigger a Cuban Spring, or, as one USAID document put it, “renegotiate the balance of power between the state and society.”

At its peak, the project drew in more than 40,000 Cubans to share news and exchange opinions. But its subscribers were never aware it was created by the U.S. government, or that American contractors were gathering their private data in the hope that it might be used for political purposes.

“There will be absolutely no mention of United States government involvement,” according to a 2010 memo from Mobile Accord, one of the project’s contractors. “This is absolutely crucial for the long-term success of the service and to ensure the success of the Mission.”

It’s not as though Howard hadn’t already identified the possibility — on page 158 of Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution, he told us about the January 20 2001 fall of the Joseph Estrada regime in the Phillipines as a result of texting and smart mobs:

Tens of thousands of Filipinos converged on Epifanio de los Santas Avenue, known as “Edsa,” within an hour of the first text message volleys:  ‘Go 2EDSA, Wear blck.’  Over four days, more than a million citizens showed up, mostly dressed in black.  Estrada fell.  The legend of “Generation Txt” was born.

Howard published those words in 2002: apparently USAID got the message.

Howard has moved on since then.  He’ll be teaching Toward a Literacy of Cooperation: Introduction to Cooperation Theory from April 30 – June 5, 2014 online — and last I heard, there were still some seats available. Click the link to see the course outline — its now 2014, and Howard’s as far ahead of the curve as ever.

 

Social media and religion: from Benedict via Barney to Vajrayana
January 25th, 2013

[ cross-posted from Zenpundit ]
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pontifex-sm
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Two stories from opposite ends (arguably) of the spectrum:

First, how social media can subvert respect for the “virtue police” in Saudi Arabia (h/t Sana Issa):

A lady in Dammam, the hub of the oil industry on the kingdom’s Gulf coast, tweeted a complaint from a local shopping mall. Agents of the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (CPVPV), she said, were causing an unpleasant scene. The government-salaried vigilantes, a bearded auxiliary police force familiarly known to Saudis as the Hayaa, had marched officiously into an educational exhibit featuring plaster models of dinosaurs, turned off the lights and ordered everyone out, frightening children and alarming their parents.

[ ... ]

Within minutes of the incident, a freshly minted Arabic Twitter hashtag, #Dammam-Hayaa-Closes-Dinosaur-Show, was generating scores of theories about their motives.

  • Perhaps, suggested one, there was a danger that citizens might start worshipping dinosaur statues instead of God.
  • Maybe it was just a temporary measure, said another, until the Hayaa can separate male and female dinosaurs and put them in separate rooms.
  • Surely, declared a third, one of the lady dinosaurs had been caught in public without a male guardian.
  • A fourth announced an all-points police alert for Barney the Dinosaur, while
  • another suggested it was too early to judge until it was clear what the dinosaurs were wearing.

  • There’s more, but I’m too prudish to post it…

    **

    Second, and more seriously – but wittily too, hey! — here’s how social media can impact the egos of “so-called” Vajrayana [ Buddhist tantra ] practitioners, together with sage advice from a noted film-maker Rinpoche, Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse:

  • Don’t post tantric images: If you think posting provocative tantric images (such as images of deities with multiple arms, animal heads, those in union, and wrathful deities) makes you important, you probably don’t understand their meaning
  • Don’t post mantras and seed syllables: If you think mantras and seed syllables should be posted on Facebook as mood enhancement and self-improvement aids, a makeover or haircut might do a better job.
  • Don’t talk about your empowerments: If you think images from your weekend Vajrayana empowerment are worthy of being posted up next to photos of your cat on Facebook, you should send your cat to Nepal for enthronement.

  • Vajrayana Buddhism? Here’s a quick overview:

    In contrast to the approaches of conventional religion, tantra does not attempt to soothe the turmoil of existence with consoling promises of heaven and salvation. The tantric practitioner chooses to confront the bewildering and chaotic forces of fear, aggression, desire, and pride, and to work with them in such a way that they are channeled into creative expression, loving relationships, and wisely engaged forms of life.

    **

    And then there’s Benedict XVI, tweeting as @pontifex. His 1,458,557-and-counting followers have thus far received 27 tweets from the Holy Father since December 12th — no “Friday Follows” and no “Retweets”.

    He does, however, follow himself in 8 languages besides English.

    A platform for online social activism and digital citizenship in schools
    October 26th, 2012

    A Platform for Good initiative builds on Change.org in order to integrate and promote youth social activism in the classroom. The younger generation definitely has a voice, as proven among others by the Chilean Penguin Revolution, and a right to express their beliefs and personal preferences concerning the direction toward which different things go in the world. Change.org is a wider platform where people and groups of all ages can start petitions on issues they want to solve by gathering and harnessing social support. If enough support is obtained, the battle for the respective change is won.

    The Platform for good makes use of these online collaborative resources with the goal of cultivating among students a sense of digital citizenship and involvement in social activism by initiating social movements for change at the level of local and national communities. On the website, links are given for successful projects like the First Woman Moderator of the Presidential Debates in 20 years, the Lorax Petition Project (with an environmental message built around the movie Lorax), and the Crayola Recycle Markers Project. Such examples educate and inspire students to believe in their power to make their country and the world a better place to live in.

    The Cell Phone Cripples Malaria in Kenya
    October 12th, 2012

    Source. The mobile communication technology proves once again its usefulness in the realm of medical science. A study conducted by Harvard researchers and published in the journal Science used text messages sent in June 2008 and June 2009 from the mobile phones of 15 million Kenyan subscribers to track the origins and spreading patterns of malaria, the mosquito-borne disease that kills around 1 million people annually, 89% of these deaths occurring in Africa.

    The cell phone technology helped with identifying and mapping a major mechanism of epidemic transmission by travel of humans from Lake Victoria, situated in the western edge of the country to Nairobi, its more central capital, thus revealing that the role of human carriers in the spreading of the parasite exceeds by far the flying limits of mosquitoes. This monitoring of human movement on a much larger scale by means of the unrelated mobile technology helps with gauging and understanding better the risk of infection.

    And this is not the only benefit. Caroline Buckee, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health and the author of the Science study said that the same cell phone technology that identifies malaria hot spots could improve the approaches for controlling the disease by warning travelers via text messages to avoid such risky areas. In addition to this, mobile phones could also be used to target and use resources more efficiently in the fight against malaria.

    Howard Rheingold’s New Book: Mind Amplifier
    October 11th, 2012

    howardbook
    Mind Amplifier, Howard Rheingold’s latest book, published by TED Conferences in Kindle format, is short (62 pages), but conceptually dense and rich in ideas. It explores both familiar and new themes of Rheingoldian writing: mind extension tools, evolution of intellectual augmentation, a more human and effective technology, the future of machines-to-think-with, human-computer symbiosis, cyborg literacy, the polarized attitude towards networked electronic communication devices (enthusiasm for their use versus apprehension for their potential to create addiction and cultural regression), metacognition, collaborative cognition, collective intelligence, and much more.

    Book description at Amazon:

    “Instead of asking whether the Web is making us stupid, Howard Rheingold turns that question around and asks how designing and using digital media mindfully could make us smarter. What if humans could build tools that leverage our ability to think, communicate, and cooperate? We invented social learning, speech, writing, alphabets, printing, computers, and the Internet, which means we should be systematically directing the evolution of intellectual augmentation. ‘Mind Amplifier: Can Our Digital Tools Make Us Smarter?’ examines the origins of digital mind-extending tools, and then lays out the foundations for their future. Rheingold proposes an applied, interdisciplinary science of mind amplification. He also unveils a new protocol for developing techno-cognitive-social technologies that embrace empathy, mindfulness, and compassion — elements lacking from existing digital mind-tools.”

    Howard Rheingold’s New Course: Think-Know Tools
    October 9th, 2012

    Think-Know Tools is an extension for the Introduction to Mind-Amplifiers course. It covers subjects like intellect augmentation, personal knowledge management, mind-amplifying devices, self-evolving collective intelligence networks, knowledge technologies. It involves new unconventional teaching and learning methods like asynchronous forums, blogs, wikis, mindmaps, social bookmarks, concept maps, Personal Brain, and synchronous audio, video, chat, and Twitter. The duration of the course is 6 weeks between October 17 and November 30, along 6 weekly modules, as follows:

    Module 1: Roots & Visions of Augmentation
    Module 2: Social Bookmarking as Collective Intelligence
    Module 3: Concept Mapping
    Module 4: Personal Knowledge Management
    Module 5: The Extended Mind
    Module 6: Self-Organized Co-Learning

    Important note about participation

    If you’re interested in registering for this course, you should know that the course is collaborative and participative, not a passive enjoyment of online lectures. If you want this to be a successful learning experience, bear in mind that the same standards Howard expects from Cal and Stanford students also apply to you. Preparation in advance (around 1-2 hours of reading and personal reflection per week) and involvement during the module sessions are a must for all participants if they want this to be a co-learning experience from which everyone benefits. It’s more than the teacher delivering and the students memorizing a body of knowledge. There are new ways of learning: individual and group learning blended with cooperative and collaborative learning, process-guided inquiry learning, etc.

    The interdisciplinary, collaborative inquiry that the course is built on requires individual commitment to active participation that will involve some “un-schooling”, where you need to forget about the institutionalized ways of teaching and learning, and create new skills of participatory learning. Co-exploration and co-experimentation of social media theory and practice are involved and the students ultimately bear the responsibility of assembling and making sense of the knowledge presented and discussed.

    So, the price of the course doesn’t consist much of money, but of a serious commitment in terms of time and attention. It requires less turning in homework at deadline and more constant input along the course through a variety of media in the contexts of inquiries, conversations, collaborative writing, team teaching, and group projects. It’s not simply about passive absorption of concepts and knowledge, but more about creating much needed and evolving skills that are directly linked to social media usage with overall benefits for your professional and personal development.

    “Human Flesh Searches” – What They Are and How They Change China
    October 6th, 2012

    A recent article published on Tea Leaf Nation, and tweeted by Tricia Wang, explains what the flesh searches are and how they change China. Despite their ghoulish resonance, they refer to grassroots, collaborative efforts to share and probe personal information online with the goals of romance, kinship, justice, or vindication. They are netizen initiatives to solve cases of injustice and cruelty left unbalanced by a society that is not democratic and has no rule of law, where the government officials show innefficiency, detachment, or even smugness in the face of public tragedies or social injustices.

    Which was the case of Yang Dacai, a government official, who’s grinning face while watching the burning bus that killed 36 people in August was tweeted via Sina Weibo, the China’s Tweeter. His dispassionate smile, contrasting the tragedy he was witnessing, and his expensive tastes in watches, belts, and eyeglasses that didn’t match the his meager wage as a government employee triggered the “cyber vigilatism” of the netizens (as Rebecca MacKinnon called it in her article) and prompted a flesh search. Yang was eventually dismissed from his position as chief of Shaanxi Safety Supervision Bureau.

    Two other illustrative cases of flesh searches were the kitten killer from 2006, involving Wang Jiao from Heilongjiang province, and the incident from 2009 with pedicurist Deng Youjiao. Cruel Wang stomped a cat with the sharp point of her heel, an act that enraged netizens. Having no recourse for moral complaint, they took the matter in their own hand and started an investigation by means of flesh searches. Wang lost her government job. Pedicurist Deng Youjiao stabbed to death one of three Party official and was charged with murder. Wu Gan, a citizen reporter, launched an investigation that proved Deng acted on self-defense, after the three officials tried to rape her. Initially confined to a mental hospital, she was ultimately released without penalty.

    Bottom line is flesh searches are essential to understanding China in the present. In an undemocratic country, where people have limited access to information about the activities of the public power that operates in a black box, flesh searches are Internet investigations, an asymmetrical form of protest, revealing misconduct and corruption of government officials.

    Geo-tagging the Twitter Activity of Madrid Protesters
    October 1st, 2012

    Twitter is once again a pivotal mobile and online media tool for supporting social change. Spanish protesters in Madrid are making heavy use of it. Geo-location or geo-tagging technologies are now mapping the intensity of protests by measuring their so-called temperature by the number of tweets per hour in different locations. This way, the pulse of the protests is continuously and conscientiously monitored. You can take a look at the protests dynamics on Web 3.0 Lab.

    Crowdsourcing the Response to the 2010 Haitian Earthquake Disaster
    September 8th, 2012

    Besides the earthquake in January, 2010, Haiti went through other major earthquakes in the recent recorded history, namely in 1770 and 1846. Although the previous earthquakes were estimated as being even more powerful, the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in 2010 was more damaging because the area was a lot more populated than in the past. Still, the response to the disaster was the fastest due to crowdsourcing and instant messaging technology.

    The blog about Mission 4636, which is owned by a lot of people and kept updated by Robert Munro from when he was coordinating the Mission 4636 efforts, describes how a free phone number (4636), a lot of volunteer effort (international, from Haitians in Diaspora, but mostly local Haitians) and also paid workers played a central role in the recovery period that followed after the disaster. The affected people sent around 80.000 messages through 4636, asking for help. Those messages were translated from Haitian Creole (or Kreyol), geolocated, categorized by level of emergency and importance, and distributed to various emergency responders and aid organizations by volunteers and paid crowdsourced workers gathered together into what is now known as “Mission 4636″. By help of this coordinated initiative, hundreds of Haitians were rescued and tens of thousands received first aid, food, water, medicine and other kinds of help and services.

    A synthesis of the “Mission 4636″ report that will soon appear in the Journal of Information Retrieval straightens up a few misrepresented or unmentioned before realities (like the true percent of involvement from local Haitians when compared to international help, the significant role played by paid crowdsourced workers and the choosing of volunteers based on strong social ties), highlights the main findings, makes a few recommendations for future similar initiatives, and provides a few heartwarming testimonials coming from Haitians who volunteered for “Mission 4636″ from Diaspora.

    The Chilean Penguin Revolution Continues Under Volunteer Watch
    August 31st, 2012

    The Chilean Penguin Revolution started in 2006, as a voice of the young democracy. Students wanted educational reforms, more generous budgets for education, a diminishing of educational disparities between rich and poor neighborhoods. Since they were officially living in a participatory democracy, they made use of their right to get involved in the democratic process, to protest against the educational status quo, and to spark a national debate. They proved they are not a selfish generation of pure consumers, but a generation concerned about the future of their younger brothers and sisters. In the beginning, they had a crushing majority of the population of their side (75% at a survey), a percent that declined a bit afterwards, but the support still remained strong. Everybody waited to see what the revolution of the students in black and white uniforms will bring.

    Forward six years in time, and we are in 2012. The Penguin Revolution is far from over. Student still occupy school and university buildings in Santiago and other parts of the country, go on hunger strikes, organize marches that gather 10.000 strong, and use forms of protest that vary from soft and peaceful to radical and violent, like building barricades, throwing rocks and damaging public and private property. All that inevitably gives rise to street confrontations with the police. Police actions have become themselves more radical since last year: students get arrested, beaten (head injuries, broken noses, convulsions and breathing problems), dispersed with water cannons, submitted to tear gas and even to sexual humiliations.

    But the students are not alone anymore. Their demonstration dynamics are watched from the side by volunteers called “helmets” because of the white or blue helmets they wear. An article from the New York Times covering the story describes that the volunteers are “ordinary citizens of all ages and walks of life, professionals and blue-collar workers, university students and retirees” and they are “armed with notebooks, cameras, voice recorders and gas masks”. One group is the Human Rights Observers and wears white helmets that are also wore by the members of Sutra, a labor union. The Observers and Defenders of Human Rights are the ones wearing blue helmets. The volunteers don’t interfere with the demonstrations, adopting a purely observatory and documentary stance, taking notes, jotting down names and car plates, taking pictures and recording audio and video material. Much of the information is posted immediately of Twitter. Their combined reports from the field are submitted to human rights commissions and organizations, and can serve in the future as proof at related trials.




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